The night of MLK’s murder

I was in Infantry Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA, on April 4, 1968, and don’t remember much, except we were shocked and there were no racist remarks among us although most of us were white. Others in the class have better memories, including that we were prepped in case we had to go help disperse rioters, practicing advancing on line for several hours with fixed bayonets chanting “back, back.”

See, the guard wasn’t trusted in those days, it being a haven for draft-dodgers from the Viet Nam war, so the regular army was put on standby. Nowadays the guard is mostly combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two classmates recall hearing C-119s at a nearby airfield taking off every eight minutes or so most of that night ferrying an infantry brigade to Detroit. One then-class officer recalls being designated a sniper and issued live ammunition in case we had to move out quickly. We never did, happily.

Later that year, in the Sixth Cav, at Fort Meade, MD, we also trained for riot control but fire discipline was emphasized. We were to disperse, not punish, the rioters. And we lieutenants were told that if one of our enlisted even chambered a live round without permission from regiment staff, we’d be going to prison. Heady times.

UPDATE: Well, one classmate recalled another one using a slur against Dr. King, but he won’t identify the fellow, effectively tarring us all (except him, of course) with the same anonymous brush.

5 responses to “The night of MLK’s murder

  1. I had no idea that the national guard was a refuge for draft-dodgers.

    I once looked into the background of ‘The Wave’ hoax. This was a California school experiment that supposedly turned into a fascist movement. This is what Ron Jones, the author of the novel, ostensibly based his book on. It never happened. Nothing in his account matches anything.

    One thing I got wrong, though, was his motivation to join the guards. He was a total anti-Vietnam war zealot, but he joined the national guard. So I thought, he was not anti-violence at all and that he were merely just anti-American and would take the shooting training for whatever purpose may come his way. Now, I just learnt that he may have simply joined in order not to join the regular army. He did advocate for violence, though, and had to leave the school. So maybe it was a mix of both.

  2. I don’t know anything about him, but in 1968 the national guard was full-up on membership. I was drafted the year before and in basic training we had to sing out our designator to get in the mess hall. The designator was the letters before our serial number, which told whether we were drafted (U-S) or volunteers (R-A). The guard types would say N-G and add under their breath Not Going. They knew they were safe. The student protestor murders at Kent State in 1969 were committed by poorly-trained guardsmen, with no fire discipline or much of any other kind of discipline, not the regular army, though in the civilian mind we were all the same.

  3. So that shooting was some stray fire from a bunch of morons?

    There was a politically comparable moment in 1967, in Berlin. The student Benno Ohnesorg was shot by an idiot police officer. It later came out that this policeman also had stasi contacts, but he was probably simply a retard and had no political motivations.

    Ohnesorg was not a radical left-winger, but he took part in a march orchestrated by the Left and his death was heavily politicized. The protest march where he was shot was to criticize the shah of Persia. The Left did not like Iran/Persia before it turned into an anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Jewish terror state. Now they love it. But before that, when it was an ally, they complained about the human rights record.

    Anyways, that protest was attended by the young and normal Benno Ohnesorg. His death was drummed up as the George Floyd of his time and the terror group Red Army Faction RAF emerged from the hysteria.

    I made a video about ‘The Wave’ case. It’s pretty old now, so I probably would cringe really hard if I watched it again. But I went into a lot of details. There was a Hollywood movie, a theater play (also in Israel) and a lot of merchandise. And all is based on the lies of a commie teacher who tried to present the US engagement in the Vietnam War as fascism.

  4. Fascism I don’t know about. But our involvement certainly was unwise. It was obvious to most of us who fought the war that the South Viet armies were too corrupt to win. And our own leaders too conflicted. LBJ, for one, insisted on picking targets for the air war in North Viet Nam. He did not delegate well.

    • Ron Jones argument was (and is) basically that Americans are just as gullible as Germans and just as happy to form an authoritarian movement. Contrary to his claims his students rebelled immediately and got their parents ring up the school right from day one. The whole shebang unraveled within only a few days. There was no wave. Americans are not as susceptible to fascism as Germans. And the Vietnam War was not fought because everybody around Jones had been a fascist dolt.

      As far as the war itself is concerned, I appreciate your opinion on that. I am challenged enough figuring out what the hell is going on with the conflicts of today. Naturally, I refrain from weighing in either way on a war that I have very little knowledge of.

      Nobody seems to know if the situation of Indochina would have been better or worse if it had not been for the loss of all these young Americans who died in that hell. At the time it would have looked like a similar situation to Korea. But South Korea took many years to overcome its own authoritarianism and North Korea also only got worse over time. Over the same period Cambodia had its Pol-Pot mass killings, but eventually all of Indochina became normal corrupt countries like many ‘right-wing military’ dictatorships around it. Not better or worse.

      So, yes, it was possibly unwise to get involved. And also maybe not. I’m too uninformed to judge.